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tv   60 Minutes  CBS  March 4, 2012 7:00pm-8:00pm EST

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captioning funded by cbs and ford-- built for the road ahead. >> kroft: for more than a decade, the u.s. military establishment has treated cyberspace as a domain of conflict, where it would need the capability to fend off attack or launch its own. that time is here, because someone sabotaged a top-secret nuclear installation in iran with nothing more than a long string of computer code. >> we have entered into a new phase of conflict in which we use a cyber weapon to create physical destruction.
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>> simon: the head of the catholic church may be in rome, but its heart has always been in ireland. in recent years, though, the faith of the irish has been sorely tested-- not their faith in god, necessarily, but their faith in the church after they learned that thousands of their children had been abused by priests. what's more, it had been covered up by the church and by the vatican, until one man spoke out. he is the archbishop of dublin. >> anybody who read what i read and met the people that i read... met couldn't do otherwise. >> safer: it used to be that everyone started kindergarten at age five. today, nearly a quarter of some kindergarten classrooms are populated by six-year-olds. kindergarten red-shirting has more than tripled since the 1970s. boys are twice as likely to be held back as girls, whites more than minorities, and rich more than poor. >> i don't think it's really cheating the system.
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i'd do whatever i think within my realm as a parent to make sure that my child is as prepared as they can be for the life challenges. >> safer: and have every advantage? >> yes. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm leslie stahl. >> i'm morley safer. >> i'm bob simon. >> i'm lara logan. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories tonight on "60 minutes." this is lawn ranger -- eden prairie, minnesota. in here, the landscaping business grows with snow. to keep big winter jobs on track, at&t provided a mobile solution that lets everyone from field workers to accounting, initiate, bill, and track work in real time. you can't live under a dome in minnesota, that's why there's guys like me. [ male announcer ] it's a network of possibilities -- helping you do what you do... even better. ♪ why? i thought jill was your soul mate. no, no it's her dad.
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>> kroft: for the past few months now, the nation's top military, intelligence and law enforcement officials have been warning congress and the country about a coming cyber attack
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against critical infrastructure in the united states that could affect everything from the heat in your home to the money in your bank account. the warnings have been raised before, but never with such urgency, because this new era of warfare has already begun. the first attack, using a computer virus called stuxnet, was launched several years ago against an iranian nuclear facility, almost certainly with some u.s. involvement. but the implications and the possible consequences are only now coming to light. >> i do believe that the cyber threat will equal or surpass the threat from counter-terrorism in the foreseeable future. >> there's a strong likelihood that the next pearl harbor that we confront could very well be a cyber attack. >> we will suffer a catastrophic cyber attack. the clock is ticking. >> kroft: and there is reason for concern. for more than a decade, the u.s. military establishment has treated cyberspace as a domain of conflict, where it would need the capability to fend off
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attack or launch its own. that time is here, because someone sabotaged a top-secret nuclear installation in iran with nothing more than a long string of computer code. >> mike hayden: we have entered into a new phase of conflict in which we use a cyber weapon to create physical destruction, and in this case, physical destruction in someone else's critical infrastructure. >> kroft: few people know more about the dark military art of cyber war than retired general michael hayden. he's a former head of the national security agency and was c.i.a. director under george w. bush. he knows a lot more about the attack on iran than he can say here. >> hayden: this was a good idea, all right? but i also admit this was a really big idea, too. the rest of the world is looking at this and saying, "clearly, someone has legitimated this kind of activity as acceptable international conduct." the whole world is watching.
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>> kroft: the story of what we know about the stuxnet virus begins in june of 2010, when it was first detected and isolated by a tiny company in belarus after one of its clients in iran complained about a software glitch. within a month, a copy of the computer bug was being analyzed within a tight-knit community of computer security experts, and it immediately grabbed the attention of liam ó murchú, an operations manager for symantec, one of the largest anti-virus companies in the world. >> liam ó murchú: as soon as we saw it, we knew it was something completely different. and red flags started to go up straightaway. >> kroft: to begin with, stuxnet was incredibly complicated and sophisticated, beyond the cutting edge. it had been out in the wild for a year without drawing anyone's attention, and seemed to spread by way of usb thumb drives, not over the internet.ó murchú's job was to try and unlock its secrets and assess the threat for symantec's
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clients by figuring out what the malicious software was engineered to do and who was behind it. how long was the stuxnet code? >> ó murchú: you're talking tens of thousands of lines of code, a very, very long project, very well written, very professionally written, and very difficult to analyze. >> kroft: unlike the millions of worms and viruses that turn up on the internet every year, this one was not trying to steal passwords, identities, or money. stuxnet appeared to be crawling around the world, computer by computer, looking for some sort of industrial operation that was using a specific piece of equipment, a siemens s7-300 programmable logic controller. >> ó murchú: this gray box here is essentially what runs factory floors, and you program this box to control your equipment. and you say, "turn on the conveyor belt. turn on the heater, turn on the cooler, shut the plant down." it's all contained in that box. and that's what stuxnet was looking for. it wanted to get its malicious
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code onto that box. >> kroft: the programmable logic controller, or plc, is one of the most critical pieces of technology you've never heard of. they contain circuitry and software essential for modern life, and control the machines that run traffic lights, assembly lines, oil and gas pipelines, not to mention water treatment facilities, electric companies, and nuclear power plants. >> ó murchú: and that was very worrying to us, because we thought it could've been a water treatment facility here in the u.s., or it could've been trying to take down electricity plants here in the u.s. >> kroft: the first breakthrough came when ó murchú and his five- man team discovered that stuxnet was programmed to collect information every time it infected a computer, and to send it on to two web sites in denmark and malaysia. both had been registered with a stolen credit card, and the operators were nowhere to be found, but ó murchú was able to monitor the communications. >> ó murchú: well, the first thing we did is we looked at where the infections were occurring in the world and we
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mapped them out. and that's what we see here. we saw that that 70% of the infections occurred in iran, and that's very unusual for malware that we see. we don't normally see high infections in iran. >> ralph langner: please learn from stuxnet. >> kroft: two months later, ralph langner, a german expert on industrial control systems, added another piece of important information-- stuxnet didn't attack every computer it infected. >> langner: this whole virus is designed only to hit one specific target in the world. >> kroft: how could you tell that? >> langner: it goes through a sequence of checks to actually determine if this is the right target. it's kind of a fingerprinting process, a process of probing if this is the target i'm looking for, and if not, it just leaves the controller alone. >> kroft: stuxnet wasn't just looking for a siemens controller that ran a factory floor; it was looking for a specific factory floor, with a specific type and configuration of equipment,
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including iranian components that weren't used anywhere else in the world, and variable speed motors that might be used to regulate spinning centrifuges, a fragile piece of equipment essential to the enrichment of uranium. and langner speculated publicly that stuxnet was out to sabotage iran's nuclear program. >> langner: we knew at this time that the highest number of infections had been reported in iran. and second, it was pretty clear, just by looking at the sophistication, that there would be at least one nation-state behind this. you know, you just add one and one together. >> kroft: by the fall of 2010, the consensus was that iran's top-secret uranium enrichment plant at natanz was the target, and that stuxnet was a carefully constructed weapon designed to be carried into the plant on a corrupted laptop or thumb drive, then infect the system, disguise its presence, move through the network, changing computer code and subtly alter the speed of
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the centrifuges without the iranians ever noticing-- sabotage by software. >> ó murchú: stuxnet's entire purpose is to control centrifuges-- to make centrifuges speed up past what they're meant to spin at and to damage them. certainly, it would damage the uranium enrichment facility, and they would need to be replaced. >> kroft: if the centrifuges were spinning too fast, wouldn't the operators at the plant know that? >> ó murchú: stuxnet was able to prevent the operators from seeing that on their screen. the operators would look at the screen to see what's happening with centrifuges, and they wouldn't see that anything bad was happening. >> kroft: it now seems likely that by the time ó murchú and langner finally unraveled the mystery in november of 2010, stuxnet had already accomplished at least part of its mission. months before the virus was first detected, inspectors from the international atomic energy agency had begun to notice that iran was having serious problems with its centrifuges at natanz. >> ó murchú: what we know is
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that an i.a.e.a. report said that 1,000 to 2,000 centrifuges were removed from natanz for unknown reasons. and we know that stuxnet targets 1,000 centrifuges. so from that, people are drawn to the conclusion, well, stuxnet got in and succeeded. that's the only evidence that we have. >> kroft: the only information that's not classified? >> ó murchú: yes. >> kroft: and there are lots of things about stuxnet that are still top secret. who was behind it? >> ó murchú: what we do know is that this was a very large operation. you're really looking at a government agency from some country who is politically motivated, and who has the insider information from a uranium-enrichment facility that would facilitate building a threat like this. >> kroft: an intelligence agency, probably? >> ó murchú: probably. >> langner: we know from reverse engineering the attack codes that the attackers have full-- and i mean this literally-- full tactical knowledge of every damn detail of this plant.
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so you could say, in a way, they know the plant better than the iranian operator. >> kroft: we wanted to know what retired general michael hayden had to say about all this, since he was the c.i.a. director at the time stuxnet would have been developed. you left the c.i.a. in 2009? >> hayden: in 2009, right. >> kroft: does this surprise you that this happened? >> hayden: you need to separate my experience at c.i.a. with your question, all right? >> kroft: all right. you can't talk about the c.i.a. >> hayden: no, and i don't want to even suggest what may have been on the horizon, or not on the horizon, or anything like that. >> kroft: if you look at the countries that have the capability of designing something like stuxnet, and you take a look at the countries that have... would have a motive for trying to destroy natanz... >> hayden: where do those two sets intersect? ( laughs ) >> kroft: you're pretty much left with the united states and israel. >> hayden: well, yes. but... but it... there is no good with someone of my background even speculating on that question, so i won't. >> kroft: iran's president, mahmoud ahmadinejad, shown here at natanz in 2008, blamed the
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cyber attack on "enemies of the state" and downplayed the damage. both the u.s. and israel maintain that it set back the iranian program by several years. what's impossible to know is how much damage the attackers might have inflicted if the virus had gone undetected and not been exposed by computer security companies trying to protect their customers. >> langner: they planned to stay in that plant for many years, and to do the whole attack in a completely covert manner. that anytime a centrifuge would break, the operators would think, "this is, again, a technical problem that we have experienced, for example, because of poor quality of these centrifuges that we are using." >> ó murchú: we had a good idea that this was a blown operation, something that was never meant to be seen. it was never meant to come to the public's attention. >> kroft: you say blown, meaning? >> ó murchú: if you're running an operation like this to sabotage a uranium-enrichment facility, you don't want the
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code uncovered, you want it kept secret. and you want it just to keep working, stay undercover, do its damage and disappear, and hopefully nobody would ever see it. >> kroft: do you think this was a blown operation? >> hayden: no, not at all. i think it's an incredibly sophisticated operation. >> kroft: but general hayden did acknowledge that there are all sorts of potential problems and possible consequences that come with this new form of warfare. >> hayden: when you use a physical weapon, it destroys itself, in addition to the target, if it's used properly. a cyber weapon doesn't. so there are those out there who can take a look at this, study it, and maybe even attempt to turn it to their own purposes. >> kroft: such as launching a cyber attack against critical infrastructure here in the united states. until last fall, sean mcgurk was in charge of protecting it as head of cyber defense at the department of homeland security. he believes that stuxnet has given countries like russia and
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china, not to mention terrorist groups and gangs of cyber criminals for hire, a textbook on how to attack key u.s. installations. >> sean mcgurk: you can download the actual source code of stuxnet now, and you can re- purpose it and repackage it and then, you know, point it back towards wherever it came from. >> kroft: sounds a little bit like pandora's box. >> mcgurk: yes. >> kroft: whoever launched this attack... >> mcgurk: they opened up the box. they demonstrated the capability. they showed the ability and the desire to do so. and it's not something that can be put back. >> kroft: if somebody in the government had come to you and said, "look, we're thinking about doing this. what do you think?" what would you have told them? >> mcgurk: i would have strongly cautioned them against it because of the unintended consequences of releasing such a code. >> kroft: meaning that other people could use it against you? >> mcgurk: yes. >> kroft: or use their own version of the code. >> mcgurk: something similar-- "son of stuxnet," if you will. >> kroft: as a result, what was once abstract theory has now become a distinct possibility.
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if you can do this to an uranium-enrichment plant, why couldn't you do it to a nuclear power reactor in the united states or an electric company? >> ó murchú: you could do that to those facilities. it's not easy. it's a difficult task, and that's why stuxnet was so sophisticated, but it could be done. >> langner: you don't need many billions, you just need a couple of millions. and this would buy you a decent cyber attack, for example, against the u.s. power grid. >> kroft: if you were a terrorist group or a failed nation-state, and you had a couple of million dollars, where would you go to find the people that knew how to do this? >> langner: on the internet. >> kroft: they're out there? >> langner: sure. >> kroft: most of the nation's critical infrastructure is privately owned, and extremely vulnerable to a highly sophisticated cyber weapon like stuxnet. >> i can't think of another area in homeland security where the threat is greater and we've done less.
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>> kroft: after several failures, congress is once again trying to pass the nation's first cyber security law. and once again, there is fierce debate over whether the federal government should be allowed to require the owners of critical infrastructure to improve the security of their computer networks. whatever the outcome, no one can say the nation hasn't been warned. >> good evening. gas prices have jumped to national average of $3.76 a gallon. that's up 48 cents since january 1st. chevy is slowing production of the battery-powered volt for five weeks as sales struggle, and "the lorax" won the weekend box office with $70 million. i'm jeff glor, cbs news. [ female announcer ] it's the lenscrafters semi-annual lens event.
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what is it? our college savings account. how do you think it happened? not sure. i think something we bought a while ago turned out to be something else, annnnnd, i remember a lot of other stuff in there had the word "aggressive" in it. is everyone okay? well, now, yeah. who knows later. ♪
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>> simon: the head of the catholic church may be in rome, but its heart has always been in ireland. from the early fifth century, when saint patrick was named a bishop and started converting the irish, catholicism has been more than a religion; it's been a culture and a way of life. but in recent years, the faith of the irish has been sorely tested-- not their faith in god, necessarily, but their faith in the church, after several damning investigations provided appalling detail on the sexual abuse of children by priests. for decades, the outrage was covered up and the priests were largely protected. an irishman named diarmuid martin would not disagree with any of this. he has dared to publicly criticize the church, and his words carry a lot of clout because diarmuid martin is the archbishop of dublin. you have said that the church in ireland has reached its breaking point. >> archbishop diarmuid martin: it has... it has reached a
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breaking point. it's at a very difficult stage. >> simon: to what extent, archbishop, do you think this crisis in the church is due to the sexual scandals? >> martin: oh, enormously. >> simon: there's overwhelming evidence that the church hierarchy was not only aware of the sexual abuse, but did little about it. the dublin archdiocese knew who the predator priests were, even wrote reports about them, but then locked up the files. investigators on a state panel, the murphy commission, asked for the files, but the church refused until diarmuid martin became archbishop. >> martin: i provided the murphy commission investigation into dublin diocese with over 65,000 documents. and the material was there. it was in my archives. >> simon: the documents revealed that one priest admitted abusing over 100 children. another said he abused children twice a month for 25 years. archbishop martin believes thousands of children suffered
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similar fates. >> martin: see, abuse isn't... it isn't just the... the... you know, the actual sexual acts, which are horrendous. but sexual abuse of a child is... it's a total abuse of power. it's actually saying to a child, "i control you." and that is saying to the child, "you're worthless." >> simon: to find out how small parishes have been affected by the scandal, we went to the village of allihies on the beara peninsula on the southwestern coast. it doesn't get more irish than this. no one we talked to was aware of any abuse here, but even so, the parish is required to follow strict new church regulations designed to protect children. hard to believe, but priests are now never allowed to be alone with a child. an adult supervisor has to be there at all times. monica polly is on the church council. >> monica polly: they never take the children out on their own, they never speak with the children on their own.
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there's always somebody with them. >> simon: under the new regulations, drawn up by ireland's bishops, any allegation of abuse has to be reported to civil authorities. and any priest accused of abuse has to step down while the charge is being investigated. >> polly: to be honest, i don't think we've seen it all yet. >> simon: really? >> polly: i honestly... >> simon: you think there's more to come? >> polly: i do. ( church bells ringing ) >> simon: monica polly still believes in god, she says. she goes to church every week. so does paddy sheehan. but he has concerns about his church. paddy has lived here all his life. he runs a cable car that takes farmers and birdwatchers to an island just across the channel. were you surprised? >> paddy sheehan: we were surprised. to me, we were surprised that there was so much cover-up, you know? so much hidden. so much children, so many abused. you know what i mean? to me, and i would say maybe to the parish, there was too much
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cover-up, and that was a pity. >> simon: why was there this cover-up? >> polly: they cover it up because the priests were supposed to be perfect. they had an image of what they should be, and they kept to that image rather than the reality. >> martin: how do we pass that sense of strong faith to the coming generations? >> patsy mcgarry: archbishop martin is probably the only senior figure in the catholic church of ireland who has retained or achieved the necessary credibility, where this issue is concerned. >> simon: patsy mcgarry is the religious affairs correspondent for the "irish times." he says other high-ranking figures in the church have been directly tied to the cover-up... >> cardinal sean brady: we must admit that grave errors of judgment were made. >> simon: ...including archbishop martin's superior, cardinal sean brady. when he was a young priest, brady interviewed two teenagers who'd been abused by a priest. 20 years later, when one of them sued the church, it was revealed
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that brady had ordered him to remain silent. >> mcgarry: he met those young people, he believed those young people, he swore them to secrecy as part of the canon law investigation process. he never informed the police, he never informed the health authorities. he informed nobody in civil society. >> simon: just last november, the church agreed to a secret financial settlement in dublin high court. cardinal brady has apologized for his actions and said he was ashamed he did not uphold the values he believes in. the priest he helped protect went on to abuse 20 more children. this is how bad it's gotten. just last summer, the vatican recalled its ambassador to ireland, the first time that's happened in 1,600 years of roman catholicism in ireland. that followed the government's charging that the church in an irish diocese had ignored complaints against 19 priests as recently as 2009.
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and ireland's prime minister accused the vatican of placing its own interests over and above the protection of children. >> prime minister enda kenny: the revelations of the cloyne report have brought the government, irish catholics, and the vatican to an unprecedented juncture... >> simon: an irish prime minister had never before spoken out against the vatican in public, and enda kenny did it in parliament. >> kenny: ...because, for the first time in this country, a report into child sexual abuse exposes an attempt by the holy see to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago. >> simon: the vatican, says patsy mcgarry, also overruled archbishop martin's suggestion that two bishops associated with the scandal step down. >> mcgarry: they sent their letters of resignation to rome and rome would not accept them. >> simon: rome would not accept them? >> mcgarry: no. >> simon: can we say the pope? >> mcgarry: of course.
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>> simon: archbishop martin was reluctant to hold the pope responsible. >> martin: i don't think that's really exactly the dynamic of what happened, yeah. >> simon: i see. and examining the exact dynamic is something which you would prefer not to do right here, right now? >> martin: certainly not. >> father shane crombie: lord, i am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. >> simon: some younger priests believe that the only way forward is repentance. that's why father shane crombie keeps a burned crucifix on the altar. it's all that survived when the original church here burned down 25 years ago. father crombie says it's a testament that, if his church can survive one fire, it can survive another. >> crombie: i think the fire that's burning in the church at the moment is not a bit... is not a fire of wood and of furniture, but it's a fire... the fire, obviously, of scandal, the fire of disappointment, the fire of absolute rejection, the fire of... of cover-up. all that... all that is the fire that is burning at the moment.
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>> simon: and you can rebuild a church that burns down. >> crombie: it is the people, it was the people that rallied together to rebuild this church. it will be the people who will rebuild the church that is on fire. >> simon: the irish church was already in decline before the scandal, but the exodus from the pews has greatly accelerated. attendance at sunday mass is down from 90% in the early '70s to just 2% in some parishes today. ireland is also running out of priests. ♪ ♪ no ritual in the church is more awe-inspiring than this, the ordination of a priest. the church used to ordain so many priests that they were one of ireland's main exports. but last year, there was not a single ordination in dublin, and only one is planned this year. >> martin: when i entered this building, where we're meeting today, which was then a
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seminary, there were 120 of us and they were building a new extension. at the moment, i have ten seminarians. >> simon: how do you...? >> martin: very good seminarians. >> simon: fine, but ten? >> martin: yeah. >> simon: the priest shortage is affecting many parishes like the small one in allihies. for the first time in the history of its diocese, the parish doesn't have its own priest. a different one commutes to town every week. that's not the way it's supposed to be like, is it? >> polly: no, and not what i was used to all my life. >> simon: it has changed the very fabric of life in allihies. as in most irish villages, the priest had always been the man to go to, far more than the mayor or the police chief. >> sheehan: and you know, it was a big shock to everybody, you know, trying to get used to it, you know what i mean? more so to the old people because they're so used to the priest meeting them. >> simon: sure. >> sheehan: calling to the house and talking to them and everything, you know. >> simon: archbishop martin knows his church is in trouble.
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he also knows the solution, if there is one, is not silence. you are the one who challenged not only the church in ireland, but the vatican. >> martin: i would, you know, never sat down to challenge anybody. i set out, sat down, you know, to say aloud what was going on in my mind, in my heart. >> simon: if diarmuid martin was more outspoken than other irish clergy, it may be because he was an outsider. although he was born and ordained in ireland, he spent most of his career outside the country as a roving ambassador for the vatican, before he returned to dublin as archbishop. when an abused child comes to you, archbishop, what do you say to him or to her? >> martin: i usually meet them when they're many, many years later. that's when they come forward. what i try to do is to imagine what they looked like when they were a child. >> simon: one man told him he had been assaulted when he was
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only eight years old. >> martin: basically, he had been raped, you know, and he'd been raped in a sort of chapel, which makes it even more... more heinous. >> simon: can you reveal what you said to him? >> martin: i don't say much. i listen. >> simon: the archbishop was so traumatized by this man's story that when he visited a school the next day, he asked to see children the same age as that child raped in that chapel. >> martin: and the teacher said, "where would you like... would you like to see some of the classes?" and i said that, "okay, i'd begin... i'd like to see eight- year-olds." and he must have thought i was crazy. but if you went in on the day of the opening of a new school, where... you know, when the archbishop and the minister are coming, and the eight-year-olds are all dressed up and with their hair combed and so on, it's devastating.
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>> simon: you couldn't imagine it? >> martin: it... it's just... you know, what do you say? you know, you just see... you see the... you know, to... it was just somebody like that that was... that was... i mean, a grown man is one thing, but when you actually see a child, you need to do that. this is the gospel of the lord. >> simon: last year, archbishop martin did something the church in ireland had never done. he held a service of atonement for abuse victims, prostrated himself on the altar, and in an act of humility, washed their feet. >> martin: there's still a long path to journey in honesty before we can truly merit forgiveness. there's a real danger today of people saying, "the child abuse scandal is over. let's bury it. let's move on." it isn't over. child protection and the protection of children is something will go on for...
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for... you know, for the rest of our lives and into the future, because the problems are... are there. >> i'm greg gumbel in new york. college basketball's number-one team kentucky makes it 22 straight. ohio state defeats michigan state while michigan wins to create a three-way tie for the big 10 crown. other victory use top 25 schools, wisconsin, florida state and virginia. creighton became fourth team to qualify for the ncaa tournament, joining belmont, murray state and unc-asheville. for more sports news and information, go to yield to restful sleep. and lunesta can help you get there, like it has for so many people before. when taking lunesta, don't drive or operate machinery until you feel fully awake.
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>> safer: kindergarten was once milk, cookies, and finger paints. in a countrywide epidemic of hyper-parenting, it's becoming blood, sweat, and tears. so maybe you played mozart for your baby while he was still in the womb and gave him chinese lessons at age two, tried everything to give your kid an edge. and then, when he's five, well,
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you don't exactly cheat, but you game the system. it's called "red-shirting"-- holding your five-year-old back from kindergarten till he's six, so he'll be among the oldest, and smartest, kids in class. parents of a five-year-old with a late birthday despair that little johnny will forever be a failure if he has to compete with kids six or eight months older, so they put the fix in, hold him back a year so he has the edge in class, and ultimately, an edge in life. in the high-stakes world of early education, barrett hoffecker was unlucky enough to have a summer birthday. if he'd started kindergarten just after turning five in august of 2009, barrett would have been among the youngest in his class, so his mother megan played the numbers game and put him in a canton, georgia, preschool. he went to kindergarten at age
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six. >> megan hoffecker: we wanted to give him that extra year of growth for both size for later on, as well as maturity for him. >> safer: but do you think that gives him an... an advantage in not just in school, but in life? >> megan hoffecker: i think it does. i would prefer him to be an older in the class and become a leader in his environment, rather than a younger and be more of a follower. >> safer: barrett is now seven, a first-grader, oldest in his class and among the brightest. >> megan hoffecker: he was already reading when he started kindergarten, and was pretty ahead of a lot of the people in the... in his class when he started. >> safer: and she has few qualms about giving barrett a leg up on the competition. >> megan hoffecker: i don't think it's really cheating the system. i'd do whatever i think within my realm as a parent to make sure that my child is as prepared as they can be for the life challenges. >> safer: and have every advantage. >> megan hoffecker: yes. >> safer: she's hardly alone. it used to be that everyone started kindergarten at age five. today, nearly a quarter of some kindergarten classrooms are populated by six-year-olds.
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kindergarten red-shirting has more than tripled since the 1970s. boys are twice as likely to be held back as girls, whites more than minorities, and rich more than poor. >> so how was your day? >> safer: holly korbey had never heard of red-shirting when she and her family moved to dallas. she assumed her son holden would start kindergarten shortly after he turned five in august of 2008, but she was shocked when her son's pre-school teacher urged her to hold him back. >> holly korbey: and i said, "what? why?" and i said, "he's... he reads. he's fully reading. he has no behavioral issues." and she said, "well, he's the very youngest, and here, all the youngest boys are... are held back." >> safer: and then, there were the other parents. >> holly korbey: they started asking me, "are you going to... what are you going to do with holden next year?"
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and i said, "well, i think we're going to send him to kindergarten." and they would go, "hmm, i don't know about that. you know, that's not a good idea." and they gave me all kinds of reasons. >> safer: like? >> holly korbey: like he'll be the last to drive and he won't get to go on dates like the other kids. there's a lot of talk of "i want my son to be a leader." i mean, academics were never mentioned. >> safer: any suggestion that, "you can get an edge up on the other kids." >> holly korbey: yes, i think that there is a subtle message that we're going to have an advantage over everyone else. >> safer: korbey says much of the talk among parents centered upon the work of malcolm gladwell, whose best-selling book, "outliers," has become the bible for parents of four- and five-year-olds. in your book, you argue that the month you were born in can well dictate your success or failure in later life. >> malcolm gladwell: in that part of the book, i'm talking about a concept called cumulative advantage, and that is the idea that a little extra
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nudge ahead when you're six can mean that you're slightly better positioned when you're seven, and that means you're slightly better positioned when you're eight, and so on. and you can see this pattern in one field after another. >> safer: like hockey. gladwell reported that a majority of canadian junior all- stars had one thing in common. >> gladwell: the overwhelming number of kids are born in the first half of the year. >> safer: so, january, february, march. >> gladwell: yeah, it's kind of amazing. look at the list-- it's like, january, january, january, february, february, february, and there's, like, one kid from december, you know. >> safer: gladwell says there's a simple explanation-- in canada, the birthday cutoff for junior hockey is january 1. >> gladwell: if the cutoff's january 1, and you're born january 5, you're an awful lot bigger than the kid born in december. and so, you... everyone thinks you're better. >> safer: and if you're better from the outset, you attract far more interest from coaches and get more practice. gladwell says that the predominance of winter birthdays extends into the pros.
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>> gladwell: you think that, at some point, these early advantages would dissipate. they don't, they... they snowball. >> safer: okay, but that's a sport. but how about in... in academics? >> gladwell: yeah, in academics, we see the same effect. the kids who are born closest to the cutoff date, who are the... relatively speaking, the eldest in their class, have a small but not insignificant advantage, not just in first grade, but throughout their schooling history. >> safer: gladwell cites the work of economist elizabeth dhuey at the university of toronto, who analyzed the data of hundreds of thousands of students in 19 countries. even as late as the eighth grade, the older kids had higher test scores than their classmates. she believes that's because the older kids got more attention from the start. >> elizabeth dhuey: they're just older, but they look more able, so they get in the higher reading group in kindergarten, so they learn how to read a little better. and then in first grade, they know to read a little better, so they're put in the higher reading group again, and then
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they know how to read a little better in the first grade. and it perpetuates over time. >> safer: she says the data also show that older kids are more likely to attend college. and then, there is the issue that haunts so many parents-- popularity. >> dhuey: i have a study looking at leadership effects, and i find that, if you're relatively old in kindergarten and that... that you're more likely to be a high school leader or... or a sports team captain, a club president. and so i think a lot of this works in this confidence- boosting leadership kind of capacity. >> safer: when you completed this, dare i say, rather arcane university study, did you think it would get the kind of attention that it got? >> dhuey: no, not, at all. not at all. >> safer: but if you had a five- year-old, would you hold him back? >> dhuey: if they were the very youngest, probably. yes. >> samuel meisels: the funny thing is that, in the past, if you wanted your kid to get ahead, you would want him to skip a grade. now, in order to get ahead, you want him to stay back a year.
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>> safer: samuel meisels, president of chicago's erikson institute, says while red- shirting may be appropriate for some kids, it mostly amounts to educational quackery. >> meisels: i think that, as children get older, that whatever advantage is conferred by starting school a year older decreases dramatically. >> saer: he says kids develop at different rates. he points to studies that show negative consequences of red- shirting, including increased behavioral problems in older kids who may be bored in classes that are just too easy for them. >> meisels: we see more dropouts among children who are held out. we see less achievement. despite the fact that some research shows it one way, more research shows it the other way. at best, we could conclude that the research is split on this. and there's another moral lesson for the parents which i know most parents don't want to hear, and that is this is inequitable. >> safer: poor families can't afford the luxury of holding
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kids back-- the sooner they get them into school, the less child care they have to deal with. but with red-shirting, their children must now compete with kids who can be as much as 18 months older. >> meisels: i'd like to see everyone have a level playing field. then, maybe we could stop some of the panic that we're seeing among parents who are rushing to do this. >> safer: and when everybody holds back, we start all over again, correct? >> meisels: well, i suppose so, if everyone does it. >> safer: so they'll be shaving in kindergarten? >> meisels: this is called the graying of the kindergarten. >> safer: some school systems are cracking down on red- shirting. heather wasilew tried to hold her son jacob back, but the chicago public school system said "no way." she was told he would have to go to first grade. >> heather wasilew: and i was stunned. the policy is, five by september 1 goes into kindergarten, six by september 1 goes into first grade, no matter what. >> safer: so when you got this absolute "no," what did you decide to do? >> wasilew: i cried a lot.
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i was prepared to move to the suburbs. >> safer: really? >> wasilew: really. >> safer: over the issue of kindergarten? >> wasilew: over the issue of kindergarten. >> safer: wasilew was so determined, she considered suing, but in the end, she enrolled jacob in a private school. >> wasilew: are you going to have fun today? >> safer: he started kindergarten, at age six, this past fall. >> wasilew: he's a little tall. but he's not any taller than the other... you know, some of the other boys in the class. and i love the school. it's very small and intimate. >> safer: and expensive, no doubt. >> wasilew: and more expensive than public school, yes. >> safer: you're spending a lot of money on this issue that, i guess, some people would say will solve itself. i mean, if you may... he doesn't do well at kindergarten, by the time he's in third grade, he'll be shining like the rest of the kids. so, what's the big deal? >> wasilew: well, actually, i think it's the opposite. i think he would be okay if he got pushed ahead, but i think
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come third, fourth, fifth, sixth grade, he would not be okay socially. i think he would be too young. >> safer: the chicago public school system met with so much resistance from parents that they are reviewing their policy. and red-shirting only seems to be increasing. malcolm gladwell believes that most parents need to take a deep breath. >> gladwell: parents are grasping at every straw available to them to try and maximize their children's chances of doing well in the world. i wonder whether if we'll look back on the way children were raised in our particular time and place and say, "what were we thinking?" >> safer: of one of the effects of your book, has been an epidemic of people holding their kids back from kindergarten. do you feel a responsibility in this? >> gladwell: yeah, well, i mean, first of all, i'll take this to
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my grave but, if everyone does it, then the effect is cancelled out. the irony, of course, is that the kinds of parents who are doing this are the parents whose children are the least at risk. >> safer: and then there is the "jock effect"-- holding kids back to give them a sporting edge or, more accurately, an unsporting edge. did the issue of athletics play into your decision as well? >> megan hoffecker: it did. that one year has made a huge difference for him. >> safer: megan hoffecker insists that all is fair when it comes to the game of life. >> megan hoffecker: i want to give him an advantage in every aspect that he has. and if that's in the sports realm, i'll give him the advantages that he can have. i'm not trying to make others disadvantaged, but it does benefit him. >> safer: holly korbey also believed that the advantage of being not just older, but bigger, was the real motivation behind red-shirting. >> holly korbey: several parents said to me, "don't you want him to be competitive?" and i said, "he's four! i don't even know if he likes sports." >> safer: despite all the pressure to hold her son back, korbey felt holden was ready to start kindergarten just after he turned five.
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>> holly korbey: and everything went fine. nothing exploded. >> safer: now age eight and in the third grade, holden korbey seems to be thriving, despite being the youngest in his class. >> holly korbey: he gets excellent grades. he has never had a behavioral issue. he has lots of friends. he's absolutely normal. >> safer: having been through this experience, how would you advise young parents? >> holly korbey: okay, i have one message-- have your babies in the wintertime. if you are thinking about becoming a parent, have your babies in the wintertime, and then you will get to avoid this issue completely. >> go to to hear the story behind our red-shirting piece from morley safer and his producers. sponsored by pfizer. i'm phil mickelson, pro golfer. if you have painful, swollen joints, i've been in your shoes. one day i'm on top of the world...
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